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Saturday, November 1, 2014

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Philadelphia Federal Reserve's Public Art

Alexander Calder's "White Cascade" and Beverly Pepper's "Phaedrus" were created specifically for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia as part of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority's Percent for Art program. Launched in 1959, this program requires developers to devote a minimum of 1 percent of construction costs for the commissioning of public art. With the implementation of this program, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to ratify such an ordinance, and the program became the prototype for funding public art nationwide.

"Why must art be static? You look at an abstraction, sculptured or painted, an entirely exciting arrangement of planes, spheres, nuclei, entirely without meaning. It would be perfect but it is always still. The next step in sculpture is motion." — Alexander Calder, 1932

White Cascade

Men prepare to move the pieces of "White Cascade" still in the protective wrapping.Men prepare to move the pieces of "White Cascade" still in the protective wrapping.

It took just two days — May 24 and 25, 1976 — to install Alexander Calder's monumental mobile "White Cascade," in the Eastburn Court of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The mobile, which was dedicated on October 7, 1976, measures approximately 100 feet from top to bottom, is 60 feet at its widest point, and weighs close to 10 tons, including the motor.

Once hanging of the mobile was complete, the wrapping was removed.Once hanging of the mobile was completed, the wrapping was removed.

The installation was carried out in two stages. In the most difficult and time-consuming part of the job, the four top-most and largest aluminum discs — still in their protective wrappings — were joined to their respective stainless steel rods, then raised one by one and linked together.

The 10 lower discs and rods were linked together on the ground level, then raised into position as a unit. A crane situated on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the Bank provided the lifting power.

Finally, the wrappings were removed. The 14 white aluminum discs that comprise "White Cascade" range in size from 3.5 feet in diameter to 12.7 feet. The longest of the connecting stainless steel rods is 36 feet; the shortest, 9 feet. Powered by an electric motor, the mobile rotates clockwise on a radius of 32.5 feet. The Eastburn Court of the Philadelphia Fed is 80 feet x 80 feet x 130 feet high.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Alexander Calder was born in Philadelphia in 1898. He was the grandson of Alexander Milne Calder, who sculpted many of the statues for Philadelphia's City Hall, including the large rendering of William Penn that sits atop the building. His father, Alexander Stirling Calder, was also a sculptor of significance in 20th century American art. His mother, Nanette Lederer Calder, was a portrait painter who met Alexander Stirling Calder while both were studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Alexander CalderAlexander Calder

Calder with President David Eastburn of the Philadelphia Fed and a model of "White Cascade" (1976).Calder with President David Eastburn of the Philadelphia Fed and a model of "White Cascade" (1976).

Despite this artistic heritage, this third-generation Calder first elected to study engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. A drafting assignment early in his engineering career brought him back to art. He enrolled in a New York public school art class at night. Two years later, at age 25, Calder abandoned engineering to become a full-time student at New York's Art Students League.

Calder's fame and his career as a sculptor began when, as a result of an assignment from the National Police Gazette to illustrate the Barnum and Bailey circus, he created miniature circus figures with cork and wood bodies and articulated wire arms and legs.

Calder's first abstract sculpture, initially exhibited in Paris in 1931, was described by artist Fernand Leger as "serious without seeming to be." His first mobiles were exhibited in Paris in 1932. These constructions were driven by small electrical motors or tiny hand cranks in carefully choreo-graphed patterns of movement. Then, feeling continuing repetitions would become monotonous, Calder conceived the idea of letting air and wind "direct the rhythms."

There are Calder sculptures in many cities, museums, and institutions in the United States, as well as in Europe, Canada, and Mexico. His "White Cascade" for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia is the largest mobile in the world.

"The abstract language of form that I have chosen has become a way to explore an interior life of feeling." — Beverly Pepper

"Phaedrus" in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia after its completion."Phaedrus" in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia after its completion.

Phaedrus

"Phaedrus" — a triangular steel sculpture pierced with a triangular opening — was created by the noted American artist Beverly Pepper. She produced this work specifically for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's building on Independence Mall.

The monumental sculpture rises from the vertical plane to a height of 19 feet and weighs approximately 12 tons. It measures 19 feet by 8 feet at its base.

The 13 steel plates that comprise the abstract work were assembled and put in place north of the Reserve Bank's main entrance on Sixth Street, where it is on public display. The artist, who is trained in both engineering and metal work, personally supervised the week-long installation of her work in November 1977. The sculpture was later painted white. "Phaedrus" was dedicated on May 31, 1978.

Beverly Pepper (1922-present)

Born in New York in 1922, Beverly Pepper studied at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League in New York (where Alexander Calder also studied) and with Fernand Leger and Andre L'Hote in Paris. She began her career in 1949 as a painter but turned to sculpture in 1960. Since then she has earned an international reputation in the art world, noted in particular for her large-scale metal sculptures with their characteristic pyramidal shapes. Her works are on display in many cities in the United States and Europe.

Beverly Pepper preparing "Phaedrus" for installation.Beverly Pepper preparing "Phaedrus" for installation.

Beverly Pepper and her team placing the foundations for "Phaedrus."Beverly Pepper and her team placing the foundations for "Phaedrus."

In addition to "Phaedrus," other works include a monumental outdoor sculpture at Dartmouth College, the Federal Building in San Diego, and AT&T's Long Lines building in Bedminster, New Jersey. Her earlier works include sculptures for the Kennedy Memorial in Rehovoth, Israel, the Southland Mall in Memphis, the Government Center in Boston, and North Park in Dallas.

Her works are part of museum collections in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. They have been featured in dozens of one-woman shows and numerous group exhibitions around the world.